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Courtney Honors Work of Former Norwich U.S. Representative William Fitzgerald in Markup to Advance National Apprenticeship Act

September 25, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) and the House Committee on Education and Labor voted to advance the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 (H.R. 8294). The bill would provide than $3.5 billion to create one million new apprenticeship opportunities over the next five years, and would make historic investments in workforce training to counter the sharp rise in unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 would expand access to Registered Apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships, and pre-apprenticeship programs. It would also yield $10.6 billion in net benefits to U.S. taxpayers in the form of increased tax revenue and decreased spending on public-assistance programs and unemployment insurance.

H.R. 8294 would update the National Apprenticeship Act—also known as the Fitzgerald Act—for the first time since its enactment in 1937. The Fitzgerald Act was originally signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt, and it was introduced by one of Rep. Courtney’s predecessors: U.S. Rep. William Fitzgerald of Norwich. Fitzgerald’s 1937 measure established national certification standards for apprenticeship programs that have opened pathways to high-quality jobs for more than 80 years. Under the Fitzgerald Act, Connecticut has built a highly successful Office of Apprenticeship Training which connects employers to apprentices under the Registered Apprenticeship Program for “earn as you learn” training in dozens of specialties.

During the markup, Courtney noted that former U.S. Representative William Fitzgerald led the successful effort to codify national standards for registered apprenticeship programs as a freshman in Congress in 1937, and that his efforts have helped Americans to successfully enter into high-quality careers for more than 80 years. In opening remarks, Courtney stated in part:

“In 1937, a freshman member of Congress who represented my district in eastern Connecticut, Representative William Fitzgerald from Norwich, led the successful effort to pass the first National Apprenticeship Act, also known as the ‘Fitzgerald Act’. After being signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt, for the following 83 years the law has remained untouched, even as the registered apprenticeship system it created buoyed the nation through wartime, through recessions, and through decades of transformational change in America’s economy and workforce.

“The Fitzgerald Act is simple—it instructed the Secretary of Labor to connect employers and labor, to develop apprenticeship programs, to cooperate with state agencies and the Secretary of Education, and most critically develop national standards. With that limited framework, the National Apprenticeship Program has expanded to twelve-hundred recognized occupations, with hundreds of thousands of new apprenticeships starting each year. […] Upon completion of a registered apprenticeship, an apprentice can expect to earn an average wage of $70,000 per year, which during this recession makes our work even more urgent today. […]

“Today we take an important step to build on the success of the Fitzgerald Act with the fist reauthorization in the last 83 years that modernizes and scales up pre-apprenticeships and youth apprenticeships, and which maintains also the crown jewel of Congressman Fitzgerald’s vision: which is to codify high-quality national standards—protects the taxpayer, and also protects the workers to make sure the program they’re enrolling in actually provides a real result.”

The National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 is endorsed by American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), Jobs for the Future (JFF), National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), National Skills Coalition (NSC), National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues (TWTF), North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), and Third Way.

To read the fact sheet on the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020, click here.

To read the section by section on the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020, click here.